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Ernie Grunfeld: Wizards will go into the luxury tax “for the right player”

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Wizards have been relatively quiet in a loud offseason, but team president Ernie Grunfeld had some things to say on Wednesday after the team’s final predraft workout. In his first offseason appearance, Grunfeld noted that the Wizards would be willing to exceed the salary cap “if it’s the right player,” according to Hoop District’s Neil Dalal.

The Wizards have been adamant about not going over the luxury tax in the past, but after their most successful season in recent memory and with John Wall eligible for a massive extension, that seems to have changed.

What does this mean?

The luxury tax threshold is currently projected to sit at $121 million for next season, up from $113 million this season. The Wizards are likely exceeding that one way or another, whether it’s from retaining Otto Porter and signing help for the bench or making a move for an All-Star caliber player like Paul George.

Grunfeld couched his comments about their willingness to go into the luxury tax by stating the player had to be “right.” What that means is they either have to retain Porter or find another All-Star that fits on the roster via trade.

The team doesn’t have the cap room to sign another max player outright, so there would likely have to be some sort of sign-and-trade with Porter involved. There’s a chance that could happen, but it’s unlikely with him being a restricted free agent.

Going into the luxury tax doesn’t mean the Wizards will be finding another superstar this offseason. It just means they’re going to try to improve their roster, which they were expected to do anyway. Grunfeld just confirmed it for us.

Why does it make sense to go into the tax?

Normally, when a team goes into the luxury tax it shows they’re making a commitment to competing and, hopefully, winning. The Wizards are planning on discussing a contract extension for John Wall this offseason that would keep him on the team until 2024, but he reportedly won’t commit to signing the extension until he sees the team’s plan for the future.

Part of that future plan has to be being competitive within the Eastern Conference. The Wizards were on the cusp, once again, of making the Eastern Conference Finals but couldn’t do it because of how poorly their bench played last season.

Wall openly lamented about how poor the bench performed in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics throughout the playoffs and he’ll likely want to see that improve before he commits to the Wizards in the long-term.

To improve that, the Wizards will need to retain their current starting lineup while still improving their bench. They’ll have to use their mid-level exception and bi-annual exception to do so, which would send them well into the luxury tax.

Washington was always going to spend a lot of money this offseason. Otto Porter’s extension is going to be their main priority before improving their bench. But both of those things combined will send them into the luxury tax.

Hopefully, it’ll be enough to keep Wall in D.C. for the long-haul.